Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Fashion Reading Response

by Stefanie Fagerberg

“The dream weavers” by Mark Tungate

Dreamweavers by Mark Tungate is an informative chapter of his most recent book “Luxury World” which focuses on the democratization of fashion. Starting with a vivid depiction of Yves Saint Laurent’s Parisian funeral, he then goes on to explain different key designers in the road from haute couture to ready-to-wear, starting with Charles Worth, today nicknamed the world’s first fashion designer and credited with the ‘invention’ of haute couture. He, along with Poiret and Vionet, created the first fashion brands, where clothes were made to measure, and the designers themselves were still very much couturiers (tailors?) The industrialization of the textile industry and department stores were two factors that greatly aided the emergence of ready-to-wear. In the 50s, Couturiers Associes was formed, to produce high-quality garments based on the designs of couturiers, although it proved not to be so successful. Andre Courreges’s model, based on exploiting the ‘dream’ image his haute couture line was provoking, and then selling ready-to-wear garments on the side, saw the rapid expansion of his company globally (with 28 stores worldwide within the first decade). Moreover, Tungate explains that although ready-to-wear is really just factory-made clothing with a designer label sewn on, quality control is very important, and that is why high-end clothing factories(such as Staff International and C Mendes) take very special care with their clothing.

YSL made ready-to-wear as desirable as haute couture and by understanding that the future of fashion lay in ready-to-wear, his rive gauche branch quickly grew on an international scale. His licenses, which by the brands 30th anniversary accounted for 82% of the total income, mirrored the ‘attainable luxury’ model brands today thrive on. In the 1990’s YSL was acquired by multimillion-luxury group PPR, and after YSL’s retirement, searched for a successor that would stay true to the essence of the Maison. After some difficult times financially, YSL is now back on track, and the house which helped ‘democratize fashion’ is continuing to allow customers to buy into the dream of high fashion.

“The Ethics of Counterfeiting in the Fashion Industry : Quality, Credence and Profit Issues" by Brian Hilton, Chong Ju Choi, Stephen Chen

With the growth of the counterfeit market globally, which is now worth $350 billion dollars, there are undoubtedly various ethical issues that arise from this illegal trade. Moreover, it is a very hard problem to solve due to the difficulty in enforcing the very minimal and unclear anti-counterfeiting laws that exist. Hilton, Choi and Chen, authors of “The Ethics of Counterfeiting in the Fashion Industry: Quality, Credence and Profit Issues”, discuss the different ethical questions that arise concerning counterfeit goods and choose to focus on the high fashion industry. They chose this industry because its goods are aspirational (meaning the value is found in the look rather than functionality of the product), production and copying is relatively easy and copying is in some ways tied into the industry itself. The authors first distinguish between the three types of goods, then between four ethical perspectives, and finally between four types of counterfeit products. Afterwards they analyze the four types of counterfeits based on the four ethical perspectives raised earlier in the article.

Search goods have an “intrinsic worth objectively assessable prior to purchase.” In other words, customers know what they are buying. Since what we perceive the product to be and what it is in reality are the same, search goods are hard to counterfeit.

Experience goods are goods whose qualities are revealed to us with use. These goods too are hard to counterfeit because in the long run a Customer, who maybe had a different view of the product than is the reality, will use the product and both perceptions will align.

Credence goods are goods whose quality is difficult to assess both before and after purchase and use. (Luxury products are credence goods). Since these goods value depends on the opinion of people, they are the perfect target for counterfeiters.

The authors now go on to give us tools, or outlooks, with which to analyze intellectual property violations.

Utilitarian Reasoning, producing the greatest food for the greatest number of people, and that thus these rights must be protected in order to preserve the incentive for creation. It is the most commonly used reasoning in such cases.

Distributive Justice, providing beneficiaries of cost and benefits. In other words, if a customer is paying more for ‘same’ good, he can expect ‘better’, and if someone is making a greater contribution, he too should receive more. This applies to intellectual property cases because a creator or designer would argue that he was the first to think of something and is thus entitled to ‘more’ rewards.

Moral Rights of Man perspective, which involves making decisions based on universal laws that assume basic human rights. Basically people are entitled to enjoy the rewards of their hard work.

Ethical Relativism, using a ‘comparison based’ reasoning based on what others in similar circumstances are doing. Ethical relativists would argue for looking at precedents and basing themselves on that.

Lastly, the authors outline the different types of counterfeit goods. These include:

Vanity Fakes are low intrinsic and perceived value products and it is obvious that they are not authentic.

Overruns are copies made from left-over material. They are of high-quality and have all of the other qualities of the original, but their origin may be quite sketchy.

Condoned Copies are copies made by other designers where the designs are very much ‘inspired’ by the original design. Some would argue that in this day and age, everything is actually a copy or a simplifying of something else.

Self Copies are when companies copy themselves (this is sometimes seen in the haute couture trickling down into the ready to wear of the same company or in franchising).

Overall, this article is a very comprehensive look into the issue of counterfeiting in the fashion industry and the different arguments for and against this practice. The authors conclude by saying that there are very messy gray areas when it comes to making ethical judgments on certain counterfeits.

“This Chanel an Original or a Fake” by Claire Shaeffer
Author Claire Shaeffer is a designer for Vogue Patterns as well as an author and teacher of couture workshops in California. In this article published in 2007, she takes us through the process of authenticating a true Chanel suit. As she goes about analyzing a suit that arrived at the Museum of the City of New York collection without a label, we follow her thought-process. She gives us a highly detailed analysis of the suit and the labour that goes into making it. Indeed, this is a suit that can take up to 150 hours to construct. Analyzing the labor-intensive details, such as quilted linings, little gold chains, very distinctive stitching techniques, the unusual arrangement of fabrics, stand-up collars, uncommon seaming techniques, distinctive sleeve design of pockets, decorative cuffs, unique buttonholes, and "easy walking skirts’ she scrutinizes every detail and validates the legitimacy of the suit. Her article starts off by saying that Coco Chanel herself stated that it was the quality of her garments that would distinguish her from her copies; a statement that Shaeffer verifies as true at the end of her analysis of the suit.

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